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Valuation of Human Capital

A Study By

Sudhanshu Mishra


For course on

Human Resource Management


Prof. Anuradha
Table of Contents

I Executive Summary

II Foundation of Human Capital Advantage

III Importance of Human Capital

IV A new role for HR

V Human Resource Accounting

VI Valuing Human Capital

VII Summary and Conclusion

I Executive Summary

Valuation of Human Resources has various advantages by itself and is followed by

most of the leading organizations across the globe.
In the service sector, the performance of any enterprise depends mainly upon
the quality of its human capital, as they are the main product delivering assets. Just
like an industrial unit’s tangible fixed assets like Plant & Machinery, any deterioration
in the quality of the human capital assets of a service provider will clearly reflect on
the enterprise’s performance. As a result, in the current competitive scenario, it is
pertinent to communicate to investors how efficient a firm’s personnel are to deliver
returns on investments (ROI).

The term Human Capital can be defined as "the knowledge that individuals
acquire during their life and use to produce goods services or ideas in market or
non-market circumstances."

It is a well known principle that measurement is a prerequisite for good

management: We’ve heard the axiom that, “What gets measured gets managed.”
This suggests then that the fundamental source of wealth creation - human capital -
is seriously under managed in most organizations. That is because most
organizations’ systems of measurement, shaped in part by accounting and reporting
requirements, are still unduly influenced by measurement concepts dating back to
the industrial era when physical capital was the primary source of wealth creation.
Using these out-of-date measurement systems to manage human capital today is
roughly analogous to steering a car with the rear view mirror.

In the knowledge era, Human Capital is the source of wealth. Human capital is the
embodiment of productive capacity within people. It is the sum of people’s skills,
knowledge, attributes, motivations, and fortitude. It can be given or rented to
others, but only on a temporary basis; its ownership is non-transferable.

II Foundation of Human Capital Advantage

The accounting and reporting systems that have developed over centuries
reflect the evolution from Agrarian Era (land as source of wealth) to Knowledge Era
(Human Capital assets), albeit with a lag. In most of the developed nations, the
currently accepted accounting principles and their related reporting requirements
rest on the foundational assumption that physical assets (land, machinery, buildings,
natural resources and inventory) generate wealth. Human capital does not even
appear on the balance sheet. For an organization that rests on the knowledge of it’s
employees, the omission of human capital from the balance sheet can play mischief
in the wise allocation and management of resources.
Researches on the restructuring that happened between 1980’s and 1990’s in
US have shown that the majority of firms that used the layoff strategy to control
costs ended up several years down the road with stock prices below the pre-layoff
price. This suggests that the short-term euphoria of cost cutting is eventually
followed by the sobering recognition that when people costs are cut, so too are the
assets that generate future revenue and profitability.
Economists’ concept of human capital advantage is embedded in what is
known as “efficiency wage theory.” This concept is nothing more that a knowledge
era tweak to industrial era model. Sociologist’s concept of “mutual gift giving”
probably comes closer to getting at the essence of human capital advantage.
Because human capital cannot be owned (or even transferred), extracting the
maximum advantage from it requires that an organization first understand what
people want and then give it to them. Those organizations that develop a human
capital advantage have learned to give people what they want in a more cost-
effective manner than the competition.
Human capital represents a huge operating cost that must be managed
efficiently because of its sheer magnitude; in the United States, for example, nearly
70% of all operating costs are ultimately attributable to people. At the same time—
because human capital is also the only asset that cannot be owned—it must be
managed wisely, but also with humanity. Consequently, a strategy that focuses
exclusively on efficiency and cost containment can, at best, only be successful in the
short-run. This creates a fundamental paradox.

III Importance of Human Capital

The new economy distinguishes itself by a large amount of the value of the
company residing in the head of the employee instead of in the tangible assets of the
company. This realization was made very clear in a 1999 Business Week article that
showed the valuation of Microsoft was superior to GM + Ford + Boeing + Lockheed-
Martin + Deere + Caterpillar + USX + Weyerhauser + Union Pacific + Kodak + Sears
+ Marriott + Safeway + Kellogg. Yet, the only value at Microsoft resides in the heads
of its employees
Another illustration of the intrinsic value of intangible and human capital is
the historical evolution of the ratio of the S&P 500 between the market value and the
book value. The ratio of book value to market value was approximately 1 in the early
1980s. In 2000 it had risen to about 6; in the last 20 years it increased 6 times.
Among those companies, current employees are now perceived as a key element,
along with the ability to attract and retain talent. Faced with this issue, many
academics started to review and suggest some new models to give a better account
of a corporation’s worth.

An organization is made up of competencies which we can loosely call 'capital'.

Its key components are 'customer capital', 'structural capital' and 'human

It is the expertise of a firm’s employees which ensures that customers are acquired
and retained, and the processes work efficiently to satisfy the customer's needs. We
can say that human capital is the basis for the creation of customer and structural

The area where human capital evaluation is currently practiced most rigorously is the
assessment of small concentrations of individuals who were seen as highly talented
and critical to the firm's future. By embedding these evaluations in management
practices, and linking them to the business strategy of the firms, organizations may
be capable of developing a more coherent and ultimately strategic approach to one
of the most powerful, if elusive, drivers of competitiveness.
IV A new role for HR

The human capital perspective provides a new rationale for the role of the HR
function, where HR is no longer viewed as a cost centre, but rather an asset
provider. HR practitioners are conscious that methods which are too closely
associated with their function may not be able to secure commitment from other
groups in the organization. This means that initiatives centered on human capital are
often given an internal "brand".
The tension between HR and wider business concerns in the evaluation of
human capital seems to have been reflected also in the development of small,
specialized units to manage certain aspects of this activity. These developments
highlight the development of new forms of expertise within and between HR and
other functions. Such groups are seen as being linked more explicitly to change and
innovation and the data that they generate is being developed for wider business
reasons which are strategic rather than bureaucratic in nature.

V Human Resource Accounting

Several models have been developed to try to quantify the intangible and specifically
the human component.
 Cost models (Brummet, Flamholtz and Pyle) are based on the acquisition
cost, including replacement and training costs and opportunity cost of human
 The Lev & Schwartz model, more monetary-centric, is based on the likely
future earnings of an employee till his retirement

Instead of basing a model on age till retirement, it is recommended to base a model

on turnover rate and capitalizing salary expenditures. However, it is not the absolute
value of human capital that is critical; but more its significance as an indicator of the
importance that management should pay to it. Employees have moved from being a
cost to becoming a resource and today they are considered to be an asset or a

VI Valuing Human Capital

The concept of value has essentially two different meanings. 'Value' expresses the
utility or service of a particular resource (e.g. the future use of a capital asset)
and the purchasing power of the resource (e.g. money, securities). If an object is
not capable of rendering future economic services in the form of utility to the
possessor, no value can be attached to it.
Human Resource Valuation means identifying and measuring value of human
resources and communicating the information to the interested parties

In India HR valuation was first implemented by the public sector giants (e.g. BHEL,
SAIL, etc.) For the last two years, HR value reporting has gained momentum
amongst the software companies. These companies have valued their Human
Resources which has been disclosed in their Annual Reports as a statement of
intangibles (additional notes to the accounts).
The following list mentions some popular methodologies for valuing Human Capital

Historical cost method: The method suggests capitalising the firm’s expenditure
on recruitment, selection, training and development of employees and treats them as
assets for the purpose of human resource accounting.

Replacement cost method: This method involves assessment of replacement cost

of individuals, and rebuilding cost of the organization to reflect HR asset value of
both the individuals and the organization. However, the replacement cost may not
reflect either the actual costs or the contribution associated with HR.

Opportunity cost method: This model envisages computation of monetary value

and allocation of people to the most promising activity and thereby to assess the
opportunity cost of key employees through competitive bidding among investment

Behavioral Model: This model aims to establish a set of casual variables through
psycho- social test results reflecting the appreciating or depreciating condition of
human organization as reflected by a set of intervening variables, which in turn, are
likely to result in the achievement of the end result variables.

Economic model: Lev & Schwartz advocated the estimation of future earnings
during the remaining life of the employee and then arriving at the present value by
discounting the estimated earnings at the employee's cost of capital.

VII Summary and Conclusion

We may adopt the basic premises of Lev & Schwartz model for valuing
their human resources of a company after ascertaining a human organizational
inventory (HOS) in parallel to assess the effect of qualitative human variables (e.g.,
employee job satisfaction, 360 degree peer evaluation, etc.) on HR value. In a
nutshell, the approach involves valuing the employees of the organization by
projecting the current direct and indirect benefits (cost to company - CTCs) enjoying
by the employees (a future cash outflow to the company) till retirement and
consequently discounting the CTCs at the Weighted Average Cost of Capital of the
firm (WACC) to arrive at the present value which is to be furnished in Annual Report.
Each employee's cost to company (CTC) should be forecasted and
discounted back separately. Thus a separate database comprising compensation
details, age and experience details, historical promotion pattern for each employee
should be constructed. The database serves as a powerful MIS tool for value

The HR value per se throws valuable insights into the HR strategy of the firm. On
one hand, it is a value of the employees of the company - thinking differently
managements should realize that HR value is the future commitment which the
firm has to pay to its employees for the career span in the company.

1. HR Folks

2. Cite HR

3. Fitz-enz, Jac, The ROI of Human Capital. Amacom, 2000

4. Aldisert, Lisa M., Valuing people : how human capital can be your strongest asset,
Chicago : Dearborn Trade Pub.1954